It’s Here! – Lair Assault: Attack of the Tyrantclaw

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 21, 2012

If you think battling an Orc riding Triceratops or firing a ballista at a Pterodactyl sound like the making of an excellent D&D adventure then you’re going to love the new Lair Assault: Attack of the Tyrantclaw. It’s a good old-fashioned hack and slash encounter designed to challenge the most tactical power-gaming D&D players out there.

For the uninitiated, Lair Assault is a special public-play series that Wizards of the Coast released to challenge the most hard-core D&D players. This is one of the few times when it’s truly the DM vs. the players. Lair Assault adventures are intentionally harder than anything you’ve played before and Wizards expects over 80% of parties to get slaughtered and fail their first time though. With the gauntlet thrown down it’s time for you to decide if you’re willing to pick it up accept the challenge.

The new season of Lair Assault runs from March 1 – May 31. Below I share some of the high-level details, but don’t worry I won’t spoil anything. After all I’m one of those DMs trying to kill the PCs so I don’t want to give any players an unfair advantage.

Objective

This time around the heroes are on protection detail. A Druid named Hyacinth has hired the party to accompany her on a trip to the mysterious Isle of Dread. Hyacinth seeks an obelisk located on the isle and once she finds it she needs you to keep her safe while she performs a ritual that will reveal the obelisk’s hidden powers. Your job is to keep Hyacinth safe. She has 75 hit points and if she’s killed you automatically lose the challenge. Oh, did I forget to mention that the island is inhabited by Dinosaurs and a tribe of Orcs called the Tyrantclaw?

The challenge begins when the monsters attack. It’s one huge encounter so there won’t be any resting once the fun begins. I want to remind everyone (again) that you are not required, nor expected, to kill all the monsters to accomplish the objective. You’re trying to protect Hyacinth. You can do that by killing all the monsters, but that’s certainly not the only way to accomplish the goal.

In preparation for your task the party is given 100 resource points that they can spend however they want on four different resources: small crates, large crates, light ballista or magical crossbow turrets. Click on the images below for enlarged, hi-res scans.

I really like this addition to what would otherwise be a very straight forward encounter. Now the players can decide if they’d rather have terrain obstacles, additional fire-power or a combination of the two. If you take nothing but crates where do you place them once you find the obelisk? I think that this wild card will really encourage repeat play because this simple delegation of resources can have such a huge impact on how the encounter could play out.

Characters Creation Tips

Lair Assault: Attack of the Tyrantclaw is designed for level 6 characters. The rules for equipping the PCs follow the same guidelines from the DMG as the previous Lair Assaults. You get one item level 7 or lower, one item level 6 or lower, one item level 5 or lower and 1,000 gp to spend as you see fit. You can still only have a maximum of two consumables (level 6 or lower) and you can only possess one rare item. Rituals are out (again) so you don’t have to worry about expending any resources on them.

Because the Isle of Dread is in the Feywild, creatures with the Fey origin get a +1 to all attacks. I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of Pixies this time around. Note that there is Glory for parties made up entirely of Fey creatures and for character that use the primal power source.

Since the challenge really is just a lot of combat I have no insightful tips on skill selection. There are obstacles that you can climb, so Athletics could be useful. The Dinosaurs are natural beasts so training Nature might give you an advantage when you make monster knowledge checks. Other than that, I don’t think any one skill will help you more or less than another.

The Dinosaurs use their claws and teeth to attack, the Orcs use weapons. Energy resistances shouldn’t make a significant difference this time around (like they did in Forge of the Dawn Titan).

Glory

There are 20 awards, each worth 10 glory for a total of 200 possible glory points to be earned. A player can earn each award only once regardless of the number of times he plays or the different characters used.

By now you’ll recognize some actions that have awarded glory in each of the three season to date (surviving, dying, scoring a crit, making a successful death save, going commando, playing on nightmare mode, experiencing a TPK… you get the idea).  There are also four secret glory awards that you will only earn if you’re imaginative or creative in your play. Good luck!

Be warned that some of the glory descriptions contain mild spoilers and give away some details. You’ll know these soon enough as they’re all listed on the Glory Awards handout, but if you’re trying to come into this as clueless as possible then skip over the chart.

General Awards Description Glory
Can We Leave Now? At least one member of the party survives the challenge. 10
Commando Complete the challenge without using magic items or consumables. 10
Epic Win Defeat the challenge on nightmare mode. 10
Fossil Record Die during the challenge. 10
Gift of the Fey Complete the challenge with a group of fey characters. 10
Isle of Dreadfully Easy Complete the challenge without spending a healing surge. 10
Nature Finds a Way Play a character who uses the primal power source. 10
Survival of the Fittest Drop to 0 hit points or fewer at least three times during the encounter. 10
That’ll Leave a Mark Score a critical hit. 10
TPK Every character in the party dies. 10
Challenge Awards Description Glory
Dryad Defender Hyacinth doesn’t take damage from orcs or dinosaurs during the challenge. 10
I Got One, I Got One! Knock a ptreodactyl out of the sky. 10
Let’s Hunt Some Orc Kill three or more orcs with a single attack. 10
Mass Extension Kill three or more dinosaurs. 10
Preserved for All Time Knock an enemy into tar. 10
Why Won’t You Die? Get reduced to 0 hit points or fewer by an orc using savage demise. 10
Secret Awards Description Glory
Secret #1 SPOILER 10
Secret #2 SPOILER 10
Secret #3 SPOILER 10
Secret #4 SPOILER 10

Glory Tracking Poster

Here’s a shot of the poster. Encourage the organizer at your FLGS to hang it somewhere visible. You may not earn actual prizes for accumulating the most glory, but bragging rights are as good as gp to gamers.

This is the other side of the Glory Tracking poster. Of the three Lair Assaults released, this is my favourite poster. Perhaps it’s the little kid in me that goes giddy for dinosaurs.

Glory Tracker Handout

Official Instructions

Now that I’ve covered just about everything here’s the official sheet that accompanied the DMs kit.

For more details on previous Lair Assaults and the program in general here are a few additional resources that you might find useful.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alton February 21, 2012 at 10:54 am

Yeah. Must be nice to have it. My store did not qualify for the Lair Assault. I can not seem to generate anything above Core membership due to # of players at my table. Oh, well.

I got the first season and it was a lot of fun, the players enjoyed the challenge.
Alton´s last blog post ..D&D Encounters: The Elder Elemental Eye Sneek Preview

2 Taed February 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I like the idea of resource points, adding an extra play option to what seems like a straight-forward (though surely not easy) encounter.

3 The Unlucky Paladin February 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm

… We have to do this Derek! I demand it!

4 Feeroper February 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Im really looking forward to this one, its a simple premise, yet definetly interesting. Id like to see this one get more regular play, as Talon of Umberlee feels like it kinda got skipped over. I thought Talon sounded like alot of fun, but alas, I havent had a chance to run or play it yet.

If they ever get the kits at DG Im going to see if we can get that scoreboard actually posted, maybe build up some interest in it. At least I know Hairy T got it just fine.

5 Sunyaku February 22, 2012 at 12:05 am

The resource allocation system seems like it will make things interesting, but I could see a lot of parties going with 2 turrets, a ballista (or another turret), and 2 small boxes for max damage per round.

Or maybe 1 turret and 10 small boxes to block themselves in. Large crates seem like a waste since they cost 4 times as much, the climb DC is the same, and they have only double the hit points and space.
Sunyaku´s last blog post ..New Character Theme: Black Powder Barrister

6 K405 February 22, 2012 at 2:56 am

I and everyone in my group saw this and thought “Awesome”. Then we saw Level 6 and thought “You meant 16 right? At least 12 or so? Why all heroic tier boredom we got sick of 3 years ago?” Seriously there’s no reason to be going back in level scaling, and after finishing Lair Assault Season 2 in 12 minutes on week two, yes both encounters, we’re all incredibly disappointed in this insult of a “Challenge”.

That said the concept is interesting, but as an FPS game veteran I loathe escort missions, and this is an escort mission. Though I do enjoy the use of actual tactics for the first time in Lair Assaults short history with the tower defense aspect the resource points and objects present, I don’t see this one being that good. Forge of the Dawn Titan managed to stay interesting for the first month and a half, Talon of Umberlee lost it’s allure once we realized it only took three characters to clear it with minimal difficulty, and this just looks like it’s destined to get pushed aside after a couple weeks at most. Everyone was looking forward to getting to experiment with higher level characters in a more complex and difficult environment than normal, and to really flex the optimizing muscles but it just doesn’t seem like it will be needed, again.

7 Ameron (Derek Myers) February 22, 2012 at 8:48 am

@The Unlucky Paladin
I’m glad you’re interested. Now calm down, we can’t play until March 1.

@Sunyaku
I think that the first time through players will do pretty much what you suggest, however, they will find that there are down sides to foregoing the crates in favour of the ballista. You’ve been warned.

@K405
Wizards made it clear from the outset that they plan to keep all Lair Assault adventures in the heroic tier. Part of the reason is that by the time you reach paragon there are just way too many options for players to choose from and it’s practically impossible to create an adventure that will challenge all builds equally. By keeping it in heroic tier most parties can still play with almost any characters and any builds and still have a reasonable chance of success.

Your quick success (which seems to be fairly common for the level 8 adventure) is a good example of how a really optimized party at higher levels has access to powers and items that can minimize any real danger and almost guarantee success. It’s difficult to put something together that will challenge every character, as anyone who plays LFR can attest to.

8 K405 February 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I understand how it can be difficult to balance a product for a higher level party, however they’re advertising Lair Assault as if it were something meant to be difficult. Which means a certain level of balance is expected to just not be there. The Level 5 LA for example we stopped playing when the party started using Fire Damage as their main damage source just to handicap themselves, and still cleared it with little difficulty.

My real point here is when you advertise something as “You’ll pit your wits against some of the most difficult encounters you’ve ever played.” and “D&D Lair Assault has been designed for a quality, fun, super-challenging play experience that really encourages repeat play.” you’re expected to deliver on your promise. I personally want something challenging, something that will force me to think harder and put more effort into crafting a character, and something to use to improve my own abilities in game. I can appreciate that not everyone wants a legitimate challenge, in fact I know of some people who would outright quit D&D if they had started with 3.0 instead of 4e just because it was a more complex system. And to each their own, but I just want a little bit of honesty coming out of Wizards. If they’re not going to make Lair Assault challenging then they need to stop advertising it as some ultimate rules lawyer/min maxer setting and just advertise it the same way they used to advertise MTG products. Beginner Level product, Advanced Level product, and Expert Level product.

Though considering the grinders some of the people here have been through, including the original Tomb of Horrors, we probably won’t get the actual challenge promised, maybe this LA will suffice, but it’s unlikely. Anyway off the negative aspect of it, without seeing the map ahead of time, my original thinking is a turret, a ballista, and 8 small boxes used in a defensive perimeter around Hyacinth, depending on number of players, one person capable of healing near her, and to deal with melee attackers possibly a Wizard with the Grease spell prepared for the day. It’ll be interesting, hopefully they found a way to keep it interesting beyond the first few sessions. Well time to build up something random and wacky for the lair assault tonight, last time I went with an Avenger who’s personality was themed on Hulk Hogan, using a Gouge as his weapon of choice reflavored as a large shovel. Keep up the good articles Ameron.

9 Jason February 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Are themes allowed?

I thought I read somewhere that Fortune Cards were legal. Are there specific deck-building rules?

10 Matt James March 1, 2012 at 8:27 am

The designer here :) I’m glad people are excited for this. I’ll give full disclosure and say that I come from a long lineage of power-gaming and optimization. Fear not, it should provide a sufficient challenge. Each group will see it’s challenge differently. Some groups might find it easier than others, but that can be due to any number of reasons (DMs incorrectly running the event, swinginess of die rolls, etc…). I hope you try it out. It is a ton of fun. There are a couple of twists as well–it isn’t just a straight-up escort mission ;)

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